When I reach Joan Nathan at her home in D.C., I hear the rattling of pots and pans. She’s giving instructions to someone in the kitchen. “Is this a bad time?” I ask. “I can call later.” She tells me it’s fine—she’s just picking up after a fundraiser she hosted the previous evening with guest chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. Nathan, a two-time James Beard award-winning cookbook author and New York Times food columnist, is well-known for her PBS series "Jewish Cooking in America with Joan Nathan." We settle down to discuss her latest opus, Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France (Knopf, 2010).
Nathan traveled throughout France to unearth the secrets of this semi-hidden cuisine. She followed her research to cities, towns and villages, finding recipes and the people who still carried them through two millenniums of Jewish presence in France. From Alsace in the north, to the bistros of Paris, to the bustling seaports of the south, Nathan discovered that much of French cuisine has roots in the Jewish tradition.
The recipes in Nathan’s book are plentiful and mouthwatering. Standards like kugel and latkes, as well as exotic dishes such as Moroccan chicken with olives and preserved lemons, are luring me to the kitchen. (For readers who’d like to try that dish and a wonderful lemon tart, recipes are posed here: bit.ly/